By Whitney Akers, See the Triumph Contributor
Just as the seasons change and warmth ebbs and flows, so do our natural cycles of sexual and sensual energies. Take a moment to think about different periods of your life in which you felt your sexual energy wane or grow. During these shifts, it is possible you felt a change in your need or desire for connection with your partner. Were you able to communicate this change in a way that resulted in you feeling heard and respected? Were there feelings of frustration and resentment from you or your partner? Were there times of pressure in which silencing your needs seemed to be the easiest option?
Regardless of your past patterns or you current level of sexual energy, exploring how to communicate our sexual and sensual needs can increase safety, trust, and fulfillment in our relationships. However, within a partnership with another person, we sometimes find it difficult to state our needs, especially if our needs clash with our partner’s. Let’s explore some tips for those times you might feel less like connecting sexually.
Tip One: Listen to your body, heart, and mind
As discussed in the previous blog on communication, opening the doorways of communication within the self, without judgment or pressure, can help us to genuinely connect with our true wants and needs. This can help us connect with loved ones with a sense of compassion and care.
Tip Two: Create a space in which you can safely talk
If you are in a space that feels non-threatening, you will be able to more-clearly and effectively communicate your sexual needs to your partner. For some, this may be in the bedroom, in the present moment where you are asked to connect sexually, and for others, it may need to be a separate space, providing some distance between an intimate and possibly emotionally-charged space. Also, if your partner does not ask, you have the right to state your needs and wants in that moment. You also have the right to say “no” or “stop” at any time, even after sex has begun. You also have the right to request that something be done differently if it is painful or emotionally uncomfortable.
Tip Three: Honor your voice
Use “I language” (i.e., “I do not feel in the mood”, “I want to hug instead”, “I don’t feel turned on right now”, etc.) instead of blaming language as reason to stop. If your partner is doing something that causes you discomfort, tell them. Let your partner know how you feel and what you would like to see different. You have a right to expect these requests to be honored. When you are saying “no” or “not now”, you might feel an increase in pressure form your partner, but trust that you are making the right choice for you. If you force yourself to engage in sex when you didn’t want to, the sex will likely be mediocre, at best. More importantly, a sign of a healthy sexual relationship is when partners respect set boundaries and understand that your boundaries can shift and change as you do. Be aware if you feel emotionally or physically pressured by your partner. If you have stated your boundary, and it is not respected, leave the space if possible. Controlling one’s actions sexually or demanding sex is a sign of abuse and a violation of your personhood. Also manipulation (i.e. “You would do this if you loved me”) is also abusive and violating of you as a person of worth. Please see below for resources if you are experiencing sexual pressure from an intimate partner.
A healthy sexual relationship will never come with pressure, manipulation, or force. Sexual connection can provide a space for you and your partner to explore, grow, and adventure together, equally, respectfully, and lovingly.
Resources: If you feel you might be in an abusive sexual relationship, please reach out for support. You are not alone.
If you need immediate assistance for a crisis-related domestic violence situation, please contact your local authorities immediately. In the United States, you may call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: http://www.thehotline.org/; 1−800−799−SAFE(7233), or TTY 1−800−787−3224.
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence : http://www.ncadv.org/protectyourself/GettingHelp.php
National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women: http://www.vawnet.org/
By Whitney Akers, See the Triumph Contributor
What would you think or say if I claimed that a married or partnered individual can be raped by their spouse or partner? Many people balk at this statement, but it is true. If sex is not consensual, if sex is against someone’s want or will, regardless of relationship status, this is rape. Sexual violence can and does occur within intimate partner relationships. Just because you may be in an intimate and committed relationship, you are not granted unconditional access to your partner without their consent, nor are they granted unconditional access to you without yours. Regardless of how deep your love may be, how long you have been together, and how sexual you have been throughout your life, your voice and body remain your own. Your deep love, commitment, and sexuality will only strengthen as you treasure your right to your body and your partner’s right to theirs.
We maintain the commitment to share a life with another person by honoring and respecting our honest voices, whether our voices are saying “yes” or “no” or stating parameters of sex (i.e. condom usage, verbal check-ins, safe and comfortable positions). Healthy communication about sex, needs, and boundaries can break the silence surrounding sexual violence within committed relationships and enrich a relationship’s safety, connection, and passion. Considering that open dialogue is counter to abuse, what can each of us do to increase and strengthen the openness of our conversations with loved ones?
Open communication with loved ones first requires openness with and trust of the self. When we are asked for sexual connection, let us first check-in with our minds, bodies, and hearts to explore if that type of connection is what the SELF desires in the moment. Know that your and your partner’s needs for connection are very real and deserving of honoring, and also know that if you do not want to have sex, that connection can be honored in many other ways that will still maintain your sense of self and safety. Validate the emotions you may have and empower yourself in refraining from ignoring your own needs.
After examining and claiming that internal voice, we can begin to have these conversations with others. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog on empowering your voice by stating your needs aloud to enhance effective communication skills with loved ones.
By Christine Murray, See the Triumph Co-Founder
Several years back, anti-sexual assault activists and sexuality educators began using the term enthusiastic consent to signify a shift from “no means no” to “yes means yes” (Gender Focus). Previously, most messaging aiming at preventing rape focused on the importance of saying “no” when someone wants sexual activity to stop, and the importance of the other person respecting that boundary.
Understanding when and why to honor a “no” remains critically important. I believe that this is one of the earliest sexual and intimate partner violence prevention messages we can teach to even very young children. As I’ve written elsewhere, as a parent, I've tried to teach this with my own children with tickling--whey they say, “Stop,” I point out how important it is to stop and respect whatever rules other people have about their own bodies. So, I believe that teaching respect for saying “no” is still a valuable and important message.
But, when I first heard about the principle of enthusiastic consent, I loved how it captures a real spirit of positive sexuality and respect and support for one’s partner when it comes to sexual activity. The principle of enthusiastic consent came to mind while I was going through some of our research data from the subsample of participants who had experienced sexual assault.
For example, one participant who I also cited in my post about revenge porn said, “I am powerless to keep him from doing what he pleases with the videos he took of me having sex without my knowledge or consent.” Although this woman may have been engaging in consensual sex with her partner, clearly his videotaping of those activities was not consensual.
Another participant said, “The truth was, it wasn't what I was wearing, what I said, or how I walked. There was no alcohol involved. I had a manipulative partner who wanted to put me down and wanted sex and he wouldn't take no for an answer.” It sounds as though this participant’s partner used relentless, manipulative coercion to wear down the participant until she felt unable to say no. Is that consent?
And finally, another survivor said, “[I have shame] that I put up with it for so long, for ignoring my intuition, for believing that I didn't deserve better, that it was my fault for not giving him the sex life he desired, for hurting myself sexually for him.” This quote implies that this participant’s partner shamed her into engaging in sexual activities that he wanted but that were painful to her.
Enthusiastic consent becomes very difficult to achieve within the context of an abusive relationship. Last month, we repinned the picture below on our Pinterest page:
When someone is being abused, they often are living in a state of fear of their partner, and abusive partners often control their partner’s every move and decisions. To be able to enthusiastically consent to sexual activity, a person needs to have freedom of choice. A context of power, control, and fear runs counter to that freedom of choice.
The principle of enthusiastic consent deserves wider attention in sexuality education programs and public awareness campaigns aimed at preventing sexual assault and intimate partner violence. Healthy relationships and healthy sexuality are free from coercion, shaming, and force. Moreover, they encompass enthusiastic, freely chosen, respectful consent for physical and emotional intimacy by both partners.
By Sara Forcella, See the Triumph Contributor
In light of April being national Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we at See The Triumph thought that it was important to discuss the way that sexual assault can be used as a form of abuse within intimate relationships. As discussed in some previous blogs, intimate partner violence (IPV) is complex and can occur within a relationship in numerous different ways. Typically when we think of partner violence we think of physical or emotional abuse--name calling, put downs, hitting, slapping, etc.--but, sexual abuse also may occur in abusive relationships.
The National Network to End Domestic Violence asserts that approximately 2.3 million people each year in the United States are raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former partner. Sexual assault does not play a role in all abusive relationships; however, just because an abusive partner has not used this tactic yet, does not mean that he/she will not use it in the future. A common belief is that sexual assault ‘doesn’t count’ when individuals are in a committed relationship. The fact is that regardless of relationships status, unwanted sexual activity is sexual assault.
The term sexual assault seems pretty straight forward, but it can play out in intimate relationships in numerous different ways. Here are a few forms of sexual assault:
Sexual assault is not about passion, love or sexuality--it is about power and control.
Individuals who deal with sexual assault as part of IPV go through many different emotions, ranging from guilt to embarrassment. We all need to work together to end the stigma associated with both IPV and sexual assault. When we blame a victim or try to rationalize the situation that they were put in, we are perpetuating these stigmas. Even more so, we are telling the abusers that sexual assault is OK. It's important to recognize and discuss sexual assault awareness not only in April, but as much as possible. Remember: Sexual assault no matter your relationships status is illegal, and never OK.
By Christine Murray, See the Triumph Co-Founder
My local community was shaken a few weeks ago by yet another domestic violence-related tragedy. It appears that a man murdered two women, one of whom is thought to be his girlfriend, and he badly injured another woman. All of this happened before he killed himself following a police chase and car crash. One look at the map of this incident shows how the violence and related chaos spread throughout a sizable area within the city and county.
It was undoubtedly a travesty to the victims’ families, friends, co-workers, and other loved ones, and it was no less a travesty for our entire community to see precious lives lost in such a horrific way.
I believe strongly that every single person in every community needs to feel safe in their relationships and wherever they go in the community at large--their workplaces, schools, religious organizations, and even as we go about running errands, driving around town, and taking care of the business of our day-to-day lives.
And yet, even today, many people believe that domestic violence--any any violence that occurs within families or between partners in an intimate relationship--is a private family matter. People often think that it’s best not to intervene in other people’s personal business, even if they know or suspect that abuse is occurring.
The tragic events in my community--as well as similar incidents that occur in communities across the country--provide a heartbreaking reminder that domestic violence affects the entire community. Think of all the people’s lives touched or put at risk by the events involved in that particular incident--such as those working at the post office where the beating occurred, those driving on the roads in the vicinity of the car chase, and of course all those in the community who are mourning the loss of loved ones, not to mention all of us who were deeply saddened when we heard the news of these senseless losses in our community.
The effects of domestic violence ripple across every segment of our communities. We need strong, swift actions--by individual community members, community organizations, professional service providers, and our governmental representatives--to do more to promote safety and peace in our community, starting in our families and relationships.
Stopping the violence requires a broad-based, full community effort to work together to develop new and creative approaches to stopping violence. Involvement is needed from groups that may not traditionally view themselves as part of the movement to end domestic violence, including religious organizations, neighborhoods, community groups, and workplaces.
I am deeply troubled every time I hear of another domestic violence tragedy, especially when I think of how many other cases of domestic violence occur never get reported, either to professionals or in the media. I encourage every reader to consider the following question: “What can I do to be a part of creating a safe community for everyone?” I believe that, by working together, we can create communities that foster safe, nonviolent relationships for every person in every segment of the community.